Ex-Radio 4 boss says BBC stars' social media use was 'out of control'

Ex-Radio 4 boss says BBC stars’ use of social media to express political views was ‘out of control’ before Tim Davie’s clamp down

  • Mark Damazer said BBC presenters’ use of social media ‘has been out of control’
  • On the Proms row, he said BBC was ‘trying to navigate a complicated country’
  • He defended the broadcaster, saying it was not ‘paralysed by wokeness’ 

A former boss of Radio 4 has said BBC stars’ use of social media to express political views was ‘out of control,’ before Tim Davie’s clamp down.

Speaking at a talk on the future of the BBC, former Radio 4 boss Mark Damazer said: ‘The social media thing has been out of control.’

Yesterday BBC Europe editor Katya Adler was found to have breached impartiality rules after branding Michael Gove ‘delusional’ in a tweet.  

Speaking today, Mr Damazer said: ‘Clearly, some of the things that BBC news presenters and others have done on social media would not be acceptable to me and I’m happy to say that on the record.’

Mark Damazer has praised new BBC director general Tim Davie’s clamp down on presenters’ use of social media, saying it was ‘out of control’

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has garnered controversy for his own tweets, relating to Brexit, Dominic Cummings and refugees crossing The Channel.

Earlier this year BBC News presenter Simon McCoy advised Lineker: ‘If you are speaking with your BBC hat on – you are abusing a position which puts BBC journalists in an impossible position.’

In 2018, BBC cricket correspondent, Jonathan Agnew told the football pundit: ‘Gary. You are the face of BBC Sport. Please observe BBC editorial guidelines and keep your political views, whatever they are and whatever the subject, to yourself. I’d be sacked if I followed your example. Thanks.’ 

Rules introduced by the BBC last year gave extra leniency towards sport presenters to weigh in on political topics. 

Newly-appointed director-general of the BBC Tim Davie is said to be planning a clamp down on presenters’ use of social media. 

A source close to Davies told the Sunday Times: ‘Tim sees impartiality as the cornerstone of the BBC. 

‘We need to think about whether there are things that happen with outside interests and on social media that can erode trust and confidence.’

Another added: ‘Outside work causes BBC managers major headaches and often they’ll turn a blind eye. I’ve always thought it could be our version of the MPs’ expenses scandal.’ 

The Sunday Telegraph says he will touch on the findings of an internal review by former director of Global News Richard Sambrook, which raised concerns about a ‘small minority’ of journalsits working for the corporation whose conduct online had triggered complaints.

New BBC director-general Tim Davie is planning a clamp down on presenters’ impartiality while using social media 

A source told the newspaper last month: ‘Tim buys into the idea of impartiality properly and you are going to hear a lot more about that in the coming months.’

A second added: ‘It would be surprising if an incoming director general did not set out his broad aims and objectives when he takes over the reigns. It would be surprising if he did not touch on the issue of impartiality, given it is such a live issue.’

The BBC has come under fire recently for a now-reversed decision to have Rule Britannia! played on the Last Night of the Proms, without lyrics.

Speaking after the row, Mr Damazer said: ‘The BBC is trying to navigate’ a complicated country, he said.

‘It’s difficult and it makes mistakes, Rule, Britannia! being one.

‘But the notion that it’s paralysed by wokeness in all its output I simply don’t accept,’ he said.

Naga Munchetty ‘could be banned from presenting BBC breakfast segments about NatWest’ after appearing in adverts for the bank after Tim Davie promised crackdown on moonlighting stars

Naga Munchetty could be banned from speaking about NatWest on BBC Breakfast after appearing in adverts for the bank.  

The presenter hosted webinars for the banking giant weeks after she was rebuked for fronting a paid corporate video for car maker Aston Martin. 

It has now emerged she could be stopped from speaking about NatWest live on air after bosses rapped her for a ‘conflict of interest’ which, ‘will be kept in mind for future editorial decisions’. 

It has also come to light the star commands a £15,000 fee for speaking at engagements – on top of her £195,000-a-year salary.

She already appears to have antagonised new director general Tim Davie, who has launched a radical shake-up of the national broadcaster to dispel accusations of partiality. 

In the videos, ‘In Conversation With…’, the presenter speaks to high profile guests including former politician Ed Balls, the captain of England’s cricket team Eoin Morgan, and perfume entrepreneur Jo Malone.  

Davie unveiled his bold manifesto in his debut speech last week, warning: ‘If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.’ 

He said there would be ‘clearer direction on the declaration of external interests’ following concerns that news stars had risked undermining impartiality at the BBC with their corporate work. He added that the BBC should be ‘utterly impartial’. 

While the videos were filmed before Davie took up the post, BBC insiders are reportedly ‘furious’ about Munchetty’s external engagements.

The 45-year-old is the latest in a slew of stars at the corporation including Huw Edwards, Greg James, Mishal Hussain and Jon Sopel, who have topped up their hefty salaries with payouts from oil companies, banks and car giants.  

Naga Munchetty (left) was already in hot water after appearing in the corporate promo video for Aston Martin (pictured), with BBC bosses saying she may have once more put the broadcaster’s impartiality at risk

The BBC told MailOnline Munchetty has been warned the gig ‘could be seen as a conflict of interest and will be kept in mind for future editorial decisions.’ 

One source told the Sun: ‘How can she remain impartial if she’s doing corporate gigs for a banking giant in her free time?

‘What happens if there’s a financial story she has to discuss on the sofa, it’s an impossible situation.’

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘Since this event, Naga has been reminded of the risk of conflict of interest when undergoing external engagements. 

‘We are developing clearer direction in this area as part of our wider work on impartiality and will have more to say on that in due course.’ 

Last month, Munchetty hosted a webinar video for the luxury carmaker without gaining approval from her employer or declaring her fee, sources told the i.

The video played up how Aston Martin was ‘engaging and assisting employees’ during the coronavirus crisis despite the company’s plans to cut 500 jobs – a fifth of its workforce.

Its chief executive Andy Palmer was fired after the company’s share price plummeted and falling sales lead to a £227m loss.

The title screenshot of the Aston Martin corporate video Naga Munchetty took part in. During the video, Freedman says the company initially put 75% of its staff on furlough to protect the company’s bottom line: ‘There was uncertainty for us when we were having to make those decisions’

BBC bosses told Munchetty that she risked a ‘conflict of interest’ and potentially jeopardised the BBC’s impartiality, since she could be asked to discuss Aston Martin’s financial troubles on air.

The BBC’s spokesperson advised that its editorial guidelines allow journalists to carry out external speaking, or chairing at private engagements as long as they maintain objectivity and impartiality.

‘On this occasion, as the event was public facing, we have advised Naga that this could be seen as a conflict of interest and this will be kept in mind for future editorial decisions.’

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